When children pick out their own snacks, they generally have two goals in mind: they want to eat something delicious, and they want to feel full at the end of it. While the tastes and portions that define “delicious” and “full” vary widely, these two desires tend to come through clearly.
Parents, on the other hand, choose snacks according to a sequence of goals, which vary according to occasion and time of day. Sometimes health is the top priority, while comfort or convenience can easily take precedence at other points in the day.
At Symrise, we recently conducted a survey on the snacking habits of kids aged 6 to 12, and found that time, circumstance and other factors drive parents’ choices among a variety of sweet and salty snacks.
Healthy breakfasts and lunches
Many families place a premium on good breakfasts. And while not every parent has time to prepare a hot, fresh breakfast, the most important meal of the day still should be healthy – even if it is a simple cereal fortified with essential vitamins and nutrients. Time is also tight at the start of the day, so pre-packaged foods offer a great solution for busy families.
Many teachers emphasize healthy snacking to the same extent that parents do. Whether the school provides snacks or whether children bring them from home, parents and teachers often work together to make sure children are eating healthy foods during the day. Even when children trade snacks at lunch, parents do their best to make sure they have some nutritious foods in their lunchboxes too.
Comfort foods and nutritious dinners
Parents’ emphasis on health tends to relax somewhat when comes to after-school snacks. They often want to give their children a treat for making it to the end of the school day – and since time is often less scarce in the late afternoon, this is often the ideal time for sharing simple homemade treats.
Health comes back into focus again at dinner. Although parents may not have time to cook, they will still work to make sure all food groups are on the table, even if some of those foods are prepackaged. In fact, many mothers rely on easy-to-prepare vegetables and sides to make sure their children get a well-balanced dinner.
Evening treats and bedtime snacks
Sometime in the late evening, many children get their choice of a “pure treat” – a snack without any particular health value, which they enjoy solely because it is tasty and filling. This may be a dessert immediately after dinner, or children may munch on cookies while watching TV.
When it comes to the last snack before bed, though, parents often make an effort to end the day on a relatively healthy note. They may give children a small plate of fruit or vegetables just before bed, to quell any remaining hunger pangs without giving children late-night energy.
Throughout the day, factors like healthiness, time, simplicity and comfort all play roles in food choices – but among all these, health generally remains at the center of a family’s consumption goals. Aside from one or two small treats, nutritional value is never far from parents’ thoughts – no matter how creative they have to be in order to maintain it.